Certainly one step to avoid gelding! Just win Singapore’s richest sprint. The South African-bred Ato shed his bridesmaid tag in scintillating fashion today when soaring home to win the $1 million Gr1 Krisflyer International Sprint run over 1200m at Kranji Racecourse.
South Africa stood proud on the international horseracing stage yet again! A South African owner in Dennis and Gael Evans’ Newbury Racing, ridden by a ‘Boereseun’ in Barend Vorster and trained by a former Joburger, in Patrick Shaw.
Shaw has done this before, but he could not have imagined that the shattering disappointment of the withdrawal of last year’s Krisflyer victor and his star sprinter Rocket Man earlier this week, would end in a real-life fairytale with his second-stringer coming up trumps.
But the Maine Chance Farms – bred son of Royal Academy came out firing to win his seventh, and the biggest race, of his career at his twentieth start. A National Yearling Sale graduate when knocked down to former trainer Basil Marcus for R850 000, he narrowly avoided the unkindest cut of all and is likely to go on and stand as a stallion.
It is a fine line in life and racing, is it not?
Ato’s unraced American-bred dam Another Legend is the dam of the Cape-based Mike Bass gelding Another Giant, a three-time winning Group-placed stayer by Giant’s Causeway (USA).
One man who will also be smiling is Worldwide Bloodstock’s Andy Williams(aka ‘Millions) who purchased Ato’s half-brother by Silvano for R800 000 at the Cape Premier Yearling Sale held in January.
Save for one or two anxious moments, the race panned out very well. Ato scored by one-and-a-half lengths from Mr Big, with UK entry Secret Asset (George Baker) a length-and-a-quarter away third.
The start to the race was delayed when Yin Xin (Danny Beasley) burst through the front of the stalls before being reined back in while Invincible Ash (Gary Carroll) had to be backed out of the gates and was vetted after drawing next to him.
On the second attempt, Yin Xin jumped quickly to take over the running on settling down with Mr Big in close attendance along with Ato and Captain Obvious (Azhar Ismail). Before the turn off the back straight was reached, Better Be The One (Joao Moreira) who had been trapped wide from his outside draw went forward to sit three wide outside of the leaders while Vorster was getting a cosy run behind them.
Turning for home, Yin Xin quickly compounded and Mr Big took over on the rail while Vorster came to the outside and the pair settled down to stage a two-horse war over the final 200m. With the blinkers off on this occasion, Ato was able to keep an eye on his opponent and was able to finish the race off the stronger, despite Mr Big being renowned for his fighting qualities.
Secret Asset who had been in a midfield position tried valiantly to run down the two local gallopers while Captain Obvious kept trying all the way to the line without ever being a winning chance.
“Great run, I always gave him a big chance,” said Shaw. “He has always been a bit of an unlucky horse and always been the bridesmaid, but on the day, today, we had him spot-on.
“He was a very good second choice to have in the race. It was a pity about Rocket Man but it goes like that and he is safe in the box.
Complimenting jockey Vorster, Shaw said it was a great ride and went as planned.
“Obviously now he is going to be a stallion,” said Shaw. “I’m sure now the owners will take him home as a stallion for sure. Otherwise I would be cutting him. I would have liked to have done it but now definitely not.”
Shaw explained why he took the blinkers off Ato for the race.
Vorster said the race panned out as he expected. The pace suited and he was able to track into the race at the right moment.
“There is no description to display how I feel,” said Voster.
“Singapore has been great to me and it is great to get one of the big races on a night like this.
“I just thought he was really, really well in himself and last week he had a nice sharp gallop. You know he is a horse that thinks a lot and tonight he was thinking about the right thing. He never looked at anything sideways.
“I pulled him away from Mr Big and went away from the inside to the middle and he just kept extending and I was just hoping that nothing was coming at me. He was just finding the line so well.
“On a night like this, my thoughts are with Rocket Man back in his box, but to win a race like this it is really one of the big things.
“Like Patrick said to me, do not get stuck on the fence. So I had to make a decision to get out and I saw that Danny(Beasley) was not travelling wide and I still had plenty of horse under me.
“To Dennis and his wife, they have been great owners to Singapore as well and I just want to congratulate them and say thank you to them for giving this horse to us and for us to be able to get this race for them.”
Evans said he would speak to Andreas Jacobs of Maine Chance Farms about standing the entire as a stallion back in South Africa.
“There could a chance we could send him somewhere like Australia or New Zealand where he is probably better known,” said Evans.
“Andreas Jacobs of Maine Chance Farms owns 25% of the horse. So it is something we will have to speak about.
Evans said the win was one of his career highlights.
“I’m in dreamland. I can’t believe this is happening,” he said.
The post-race jockey quotes, courtesy of the Singapore Turf Club, make for interesting reading:
Barend Vorster – Winner – Ato - I had the perfect trip, the only decision was whether to go inside or outside when I challenged. It is just fantastic to have won this race, I’m so very happy.
Stephen Baster – 2nd – Mr Big – He’s got the biggest heart, but he slipped at the start trying to jump too quickly. Without that I am not saying he would have won, but he’d have gone even closer.
George Baker – 3rd – Secret Asset – He broke OK but couldn’t quite lay up with the leaders. I had a really lovely run around the bend, a gap opened, and he ran on well for me. He’s better on a faster surface, but really, he’s run a blinder.
Oscar Chavez – 4th – Captain Obvious – He has run very well, no complaints at all.
Kieren Fallon – 5th – Krypton Factor – I knew I was in trouble from the gate when the rain came. He just can’t act on this ground.
Joao Moreira – 6th – Better Be The One – The draw killed him, I had to use too much horse up early to try and get a position, and he didn’t finish.
Gary Carroll – 7th – Invincible Ash – I had a good trip and she travelled well, but when I asked her she never picked up on the ground. We know she needs fast ground and the rain came at the wrong time.
Jose Verenzuela – 8th – Perfect Pins – He didn’t handle the turn, and couldn’t get round the bend, he lost too much ground.
Danny Beasley – 9th – Yin Xin – He pulled up lame. He’s had issues this week.